April 2, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 19 (Review)

The Turn in the Urn
Episode Summary
Booth and Brennan attend a funeral for Todd Mirga, a billionaire Romani hedgefund manager who funded Brennan's research in the past and was found in his safe room, having OD'ed on heroin. During the funeral, however, Todd shows up and claims that he was out of the country in rehab for his heroin problem. The team scans images of the dead body and notes that, when the body was found three weeks after death, the face was swollen and unrecognizable, and the body had no ID on it. Todd's mother had the body cremated, so Brennan wants to know who is in the urn.

"I am completely confident this is Mesopotamian and from
3000 BC, rather than Greek and from 300 BC. Publication, please!"
Brennan and her team start picking through the cremains at the Jeffersonian. Because of the inept job of the crematorium, the fragments are much larger than normal. Based on the shape, thickness, and textured lip of an ilium fragment, Brennan guesses the cremains are from a male in his mid-30s.  However, she and Finn quickly find duplicates, meaning the MNI (minimum number of individuals) of their sample is more than one. In fact, there are at least three individuals represented: most of the cremains are the 30-something male, but there is also a bone whose degree of ossification suggests mid-to-late 70s, and one tooth whose cementum apposition suggests early 20s.

Using a fancy new algorithm she created, Angela does a facial regression to attempt to see what the victim in the safe room actually looked like before his bloated corpse was found.  Based on a DMV match, the victim was Daniel Barr. Two teeth among the cremains positively ID him. Daniel was Todd's lifestyle concierge, helping him by doing things like booking travel and procuring antiquities. Todd doesn't know why the security cameras in his safe room were off at the time Daniel died.

Hodgins finds soil on Daniel's body, that's somehow made it through the cremation. The soil is unique to the Hateo Plain of inner Mongolia, because of course it is.  Daniel does not have a rap sheet, but Todd's mother has a huge one.  Booth brings her in to the FBI for questioning, but she asserts it's ethnic profiling because she's Romani.  She points the finger at Sarah Metzler, Todd's girlfriend.  Sarah is interviewed, and she swears she didn't kill Daniel.

Brennan and Finn continue to look for evidence in the cremains.  They find a part of the occipital with a fracture that cannot be attributed to heat-induced fracturing from cremation.  Rather, it's evidence of blunt trauma. Particulates on the occipital include crystals and a piece of carved narwhal tusk. Radiometric dating puts the tusk at about 1,000 years old. For some reason, this makes Brennan assume that Daniel was after the Schl├Ąchter Kelch, the google translate result for Slaughterer's Chalice.  The chalice was supposedly from the Land of Punt, which is south of Egypt and therefore doesn't explain either the random German name or the Mongolian dirt in the least. But it does lead them to Satima Najar, clearly the world's worst antiquities expert, since she (and Brennan) thinks an Attic (or possibly Apulian) red-figure lekanis is a "Mesopotamian sacrificial basin" (See Who needs a classicist?). Brennan threatens Najar because the so-called sacrificial basin was looted from a museum in Iraq, but nothing comes of that.  Najar admits that Daniel contacted her to help procure the Slaughterer's Chalice, but she refused.  Brennan thinks that Daniel was killed with the chalice.

Hodgins for some odd reason cannibalizes a bunch of Jeffersonian exhibits in order to make a crystal cathode diffractometer, because apparently the SEM and mass specs aren't good enough to find diamonds?  He finds diamond dust that doesn't match with the crystals from the ancient artifact whose particles were embedded in Daniel's bones.  Brennan has the crematorium equipment shipped to the Jeffersonian for further investigation. They find some of the missing parts of the victim in the cremulator (which is, ironically enough, my superhero name) and retort, and from the extra occipital pieces, Brennan is certain that cause of death was blunt force trauma to the occipital with the chalice. However, Finn notices recent but healing projectile trauma to the inferior margin of the scapula. Daniel was shot about 2 weeks before his death, and from the metal melted into the trabeculae, Hodgins finds a cupronickel residue from an antique bullet shot by a Colt semiautomatic pistol prototype. Todd, of course, had purchased one 6 weeks ago, before Daniel was killed.

A tox screen on Daniel's remaining tissue comes up positive for heroin, and Todd admits to Booth that they were high when playing with the antique gun. Daniel getting shot was an accident, though. After Booth suggests that Todd killed Daniel with the chalice, Todd confesses upon learning about the diamond dust they found. But Hodgins also finds resin from a female lac bug, which can be found in nail polish. Angela remembers a news story about a million dollar manicure. They find the auction results for the manicure, and one of the three people who got one was Sarah Metzler.  Todd confessed to save Sarah.  She admits that she was angry at Daniel, who didn't want Todd to get clean. She managed to procure the Slaughterer's Chalice as a surprise for Todd, but got into a fight with Daniel about drugs and whacked him with it.

  • Forensic
    • When Brennan dumps the cremains into the electrostatic trap, they're surprisingly grey. I haven't had much experience with modern cremains, but they're never a uniform color like that.  The ones they show later, when she and Finn are picking through them, are more like what I've seen before.
    • Not sure what a "textured lip" of the ilium is. Maybe they mean the auricular surface?  Its height can tell you sex, and its structure can give you age-at-death information.  But it's higher in females than in males, so if "textured" means "higher," then Brennan's sex estimation is wrong.
    • Also not sure what "degree of ossification" means for adults.  In subadults, ossification refers to the fusion of the epiphyses with the diaphysis, which happens throughout adolescence. But you see the opposite as we get older as bone loss takes over.  That's not really degree of ossification, though; it's more degree of degeneration or osteoporosis.
    • Cementum apposition, on the other hand, is a valid (if not terribly precise or reliable) indicator of age-at-death.
    • Brennan mentions that two teeth confirmed Daniel's ID, but she doesn't explain how -- very unique fillings?
    • I am glad that the really important features of the skeleton were available from the cremation: a piece of the margin of the scapula (which is pretty thin) that still shows new remodelling even after having been exposed to massive heat (which warps bone), that the proper occipital fragments were found, etc. 
  • Plot
    • Why does Todd's girlfriend go through with the funeral if she knows he's not dead? And was the mother in on it, since she contracted the budget crematorium to incinerate Daniel?
    • Bones Writers Can't Check a Map -- The Jeffersonian team talks about the "Church Falls PD."  There's a Falls Church in VA, but not a Church Falls. 
    • Bones Writers Can't Check a Map II -- There doesn't seem to be any such thing as the Hateo Plain in Mongolia.  According to my very brief searching, the four major plains in the area of the Liaohe, Songnen, Tumochuan, and River Bend.  
    • I also don't understand the Mongolian dirt to begin with, since didn't the chalice come from Saudi Arabia? Or Punt (which was south of Egypt)?
    • See Who needs a classicist? for my rant on the terrible antiquities showcased.
    • Why in the world does Hodgins need to frankenstein together something to find evidence of diamond dust?  He has a slew of tools that would help him do that.
    • Yeah, no one would ask Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, to write the art historical-archaeological report on the Slaughterer's Chalice.  I know she's supposed to be suuuuuper smart and all, but this is someone else's area of expertise. Academic publication is not the result of finders-keepers.
  • Dialogue
    • "When ancient treasures are looted, it's worse than stealing art; it's stealing history. Artifacts like the Slaughterer's Chalice belong in a museum where everyone can experience them." -- Brennan, channeling her inner Indiana Jones, even though her house and her office are full of artifacts.
    • "...Then what are those horns on your head, pretty boy?" -- Mrs. Mirga. Nope, not ethnic profiling at all.

Forensic Mystery - C. The mystery wasn't bad per se, but it was all over the place.

Forensic Solution - D. Did they get someone new to write for Hodgins or something? No idea what was going on with his particulate analysis. It usually makes at least a little bit of sense.

Drama - D. There wasn't a killer on the loose.  And there was a whole bunch of dramatic filler in Finn's breakup with Michelle.  I honestly didn't remember they were dating.  And can't recall where she went off to school, where Finn is/was supposed to be living, and how much money he's supposedly making with the random hot sauce.


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